I attended a lunch last Friday organised by the Labour Friends of India. Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair was awarded the Fenner Brockway medal for his contribution to UK-India relations. He was presented the medal by the First Secretary of State Lord (Peter) Mandelson on behalf of the Labour Friends of India UK Parliamentary Group. Lord Mandelson paid tribute to the former Prime Minister for “being committed to India and to understanding the dramatic way in which India’s place and role in the world has changed in the last twenty years.”
The event was to focus on how Blair had connected to UK and India more closely during his time in office. Some of the specific events or actions mentioned were:
- Signing the New Delhi Declaration in Jan 2002 which marked a new, mature relationship between the two countries. A relationship not shaped by sentiment, or a shared past, but forged in the hard realities of the modern world.
- Visiting India and Pakistan at a time of intense danger following the murderous attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and escalating military tensions.
- Increasing the British International Development budget to India from £60 million to £300 million. This was a huge shift in recognition that a third of the world’s poor live in India and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals there needed to be a new focus on India.
- Being the first leader of the G8 to go on record and support India’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. He subsequently started inviting India to G8 meetings.
- Resisting protectionist tendencies and actively promoting liberal markets, particularly through the new annual UK – India Investment summits. By the end of 2006 the UK was India’s 3rd largest investor cumulatively – after Mauritius, and the USA.